Fabio Pirona

Domenico Cimarosa: Dixit Dominus

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Domenico Cimarosa succeeded Salieri as court composer in Vienna and was liked and respected by both Haydn and Mozart. He had an eventful life that included a stint working for Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg (he went back to southern Italy because he couldn't hack the cold weather) and imprisonment in old age for having supported the French Revolution. This Dixit Dominus comes from the last stage of Cimarosa's career, after he composed most of the operas for which he is best known today. Even more than most sacred pieces of the late eighteenth century it is extremely operatic. The overall structure, following the verses of the original psalm, alternates solos and choruses. The choruses largely eschew polyphony, and some of them include unison exclamations in the nature of an opera chorus. Even the final "Sicut erat" is a peppy piece of choral homophony garlanded with duos rather than a majestic conclusion. The opening "Dixit Dominus" begins with lengthy orchestral passages that resemble an operatic overture, with a profusion of tunes, and in general the music is loosely structured but filled with attractive melody. The three solo parts are very attractive and lie well in their vocal ranges; they're worth getting to know for young singers looking to make a mark with unusual repertory. The little-known soloists, choir, and modern-instrument orchestra here all come from Italy's heavily Germanic northeast; though the soloists aren't consistently secure intonationally, there is an overall warmth and confidence that puts the music across. One of the more successful outings among the CPO label's musicologically oriented releases, recommended to lovers of Classical-period opera and choral music.

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